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Misused prescriptions can be deadly

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When prescription medications do not work in the ways we expect them to, the outcome can be deadly. New research finds serious side effects are on the rise. In a new study, doctors examined serious side effects from prescription medications reported to the United States Food and Drug Administration. They found the number of cases has increased dramatically in recent years -- rising from nearly 35,000 in 1998 to almost 90,000 in 2005. Over 15,000 different drugs were involved, but death was most closely linked to pain medications such as Oxycodone and immune system drugs such as Remicade. Researchers say several factors could be contributing to the increase. One possibility is that doctors are more aware of side effects now and report them more often. In addition, as the population ages, more people need prescription medications, which leaves them at risk for side effects. People are also using multiple drugs at a time -- researchers found one quarter of the patients harmed by drugs were taking five medications or more. Experts conclude that the dramatic rise in side effects means that the existing system is not adequately protecting patients and underscores the need for far-reaching policy changes.

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